Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 10: Winding Down & Packing Up

We spent our last day in Jerusalem by leaving Jerusalem!  Tight security around our hotel (the Pope was to meet with representatives of the Israeli government close by) and throughout the city made a getaway imperative.  So, we piled into the bus for a final excursion to Emmaus (Luke 24).  The Scriptures describe the village as being about eight miles from the Holy City, but our particular excursion took more than two hours, the traffic was so thick.

When we arrived at the French Benedictine monastery of Abu Gosh, we were greeted by Frere Dominique, one of the monks, who told us that, unfortunately, we lost our opportunity to have a group Mass because of our late arrival.  But he did mention that the monks were having their daily Mass, scheduled for 11:30 am, to which we were most welcome.

The experience turned out to be perfect. Talk about serendipity!  Frs. Larry, Cesar and I concelebrated  with the abbot and were seated in the choir stalls alongside the nine monks of the community.  Several Benedictine sisters from the adjacent convent were present as well for the Mass chanted in both French and Latin.  The language might have been a bit of a barrier, but the music was transcendent, as was the calm and graceful liturgy.  We were welcome to and into a beautiful experience of prayer.

It was enough, more than enough for our final day in the Holy Land.  The evening before, we celebrated a gala dinner on the patio of a family-owned French restaurant not far from our hotel.  There, we could relax, unwind, and begin to say our 'farewells' over a glass of Chilean merlot and before our entrees.  A perfect way to celebrate the conclusion to our journey.

After a relaxing afternoon of packing, napping, or relaxing by the pool, we all set our alarms for a very early wake-up call at 1:30 am Tuesday, May 27.  Amazingly, we were all ready to board our bus for the final time, arriving at Ben Gurion Airport before 3am.  The rest was just the "stuff" of international travel:  passport, customs, and security controls. Boarding and settling in for our journey (Tel Avi to Istanbul--2 hours; Istanbul to Los Angeles-- 13 hours; Los Angeles to Santa Barbara-- 2 hours).  At 8:10 pm local time, we arrived back at the Old Mission, our mission accomplished.  For now.

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